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Pop-up art exhibition hosted in Knowle West

Main image: June Berry RWA NEAC Hon. RE RWS (b.1924), Le Cirque du Soleil Performing ‘Varekai’, 2011, watercolour, 48 x 63cm. RWA Collection © RWA (Royal West of England Academy)

Knowle West has been chosen as one of six Bristol communities to host a free pop-up art exhibition next month from the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) – which will also be running a workshop.

The art will be on display at Bristol Community Links (BCL) South day centre in Langhill Avenue from 1-24 September – with a family workshop on Saturday 4 September.

Bristol Community Links South.

The exhibition entitled Varekai (Wherever) consists of nine colourful paintings – and takes its name from one of the images about a circus performance.

RWA is currently closed for refurbishment, so is making sure it takes its art out to the community and reaches new people. The exhibition has already been shown at Easton Community Centre and will be coming to Knowle West from Barton Hill Settlement.

RWA Learning and Participation Manager, Helen Jacobs says: “Whilst the RWA gallery is undergoing a major building restoration, as part of our offsite activity plan, we are taking nine paintings from the RWA Collection out to community spaces over six months…

“Varekai is a Romani word meaning ‘wherever’. We think that ‘wherever’ is important, because wherever we are, everywhere and nowhere, we need to be connected to people. 

“The paintings were chosen because they are bright, colourful, fun and enticing – they depict the outdoors, being together with others, work places, buildings, familiar places the natural world. The pandemic has caused all of us such difficulty, and more than ever we need to look to creativity as a way to express our feelings and see our stories reflected…”

Artworks also include a large painting of sunflowers by Chien Ying Chang  张蒨英 and children flying kites in Rajasthan in a painting by Shahid Pavez. 

Varekai exhibition at Easton Community Centre. Image courtesy of RWA.

Using the paintings as inspiration, the artist-led free family workshops are happening at each venue to get people engaged with the exhibition.

Artists Jessie and Maria will help participants make a joint as well as individual textile artworks that focus on landscape and place – which are the themes of the exhibition.

There will also be the chance to take part in a very simple collage activity and some fun mask making, both relating to the main image of circus performers.

“We are very excited about having the exhibition here…”

BCL South Manager Kevin Caffrey says: “We are very excited about having the exhibition here and with the idea of being able to open up the space for the community again, we hope this will be just the beginning and that the space can be used in the future for more exhibitions, events and activities.

“We want the building to be a resource for the local area not just in the day time but at weekends and in the evenings.  The exhibition, I hope will be a great showcase for the venue as well as an opportunity for us to raise awareness of the service and what it has to offer.”

The RWA art gallery has existed for over 160 years and will reopen to welcome new visitors early in 2022.

The exhibition will run from 1 – 24 September at BCL South in Langhill Avenue, Knowle West – with the free family workshop taking place on Saturday 4 September from 10.30am- 12.30pm. Parents must remain in the building and are encouraged to join in.

For more information and to book the workshop visit: